How do I rest without really taking a break from work or going away from work?

Dominic Rivera ‏@HeyItsMinic: How do I rest without really taking a break from work or going away from work?

Answer

I’m going to call bullshit on you, Dominic. Only because I’m also calling bullshit on myself. A lot of times the day starts off, “ugh, I feel so overwhelmed, I have so much to do.” And then the day ends, “Damn, I had so much to do and I did none of it.” It’s a shit sandwich and I ate it. As a society we eat shit sandwiches all day long.

Three things:

1) Think back to the five greatest moments in your life. Did any of them occur while you were staring at a screen or talking on the phone? Can you say, “wow, the number 3 most impactful moment in my life was that time I was crossing Main Street while talking on the phone with my buddy and it was just AMAZING!” No, you won’t say that. Nor will it be the time you were playing online scrabble with friends or surfing that little website, “jamesaltucher.com” although that last one might make the top 10. Let’s be disciplined and stick to five.

2) Your computer screen overstimulates the pineal gland. If you cracked open your forehead and drilled a whole through the center of the skull, and suck out what’s underneath with a straw you’d drink your own pineal gland.

Don’t do that.

The pineal gland, among other things, regulates the melatonin in the body. When it’s overstimulated, like when you stare at a computer screen all day, the melatonin in your body is suppressed and your sleep and rest periods will be automatically more difficult. You won’t get into a deep sleep, for instance, or you will wake up at 3 in the morning, anxious about all the things you have to do and the cycle repeats. The pineal gland stops functioning well as we age, which is why older people get less sleep. They don’t NEED less sleep, as is commonly thought, but they get less quality sleep because the pineal gland calcifies and less melatonin is produced in the body, resulting in less sleep as well as more age-related diseases such as cancer.

So basically, when you stare at a computer screen all day, particularly at night, your body is going to think you are a 90 year old man. When you are a 90 year old man, not only is it harder for you to get sleep but it’s harder for you to get basic tasks done, so you have to stay at the computer screen longer. The famous shit-sandwich-cycle (as seen on Oprah, etc) repeats.

3) Staring at a computer screen releases dopamine in the body. The dopamine hormone is the “reward hormone”. It tells the body,”Job well done”. Normally you want that hormone only released when you actually do a good job at something. Unfortunately, lots of drugs also trigger it. Which is why we become psychologically addicted to many drugs. Guess what? Staring at a computer screen also triggers it. So we become an addict. And even when we have nothing do, we still feel this need to stare at a computer screen.

Part of your feeling, “I never get enough done” has nothing to do with getting enough done. It’s actually a withdrawal symptom of the addiction of looking at the computer screen. So we must remove our addictions.

By the way, if someone talks to you about hormones say, “Hmm, I never heard a whore moan.”

Ok, back to work:

I want to sleep better. I want to rest better. I also want to be more creative in my life and help more people. So we are going to do this shit-sandwich diet and accomplish this.

A) Make a To-Don’t List. Not a To-Do list. But this morning I’m going to make a list of all the things I don’t want to do. Here’s part of my list: I’m not going to play online chess for more than five minutes today. I’m an addict and can play for hours. Five minutes is basically five games. That’s enough. I’m not going to read news online. What’s better – to read a poorly researched, opinionated, poorly written news article or to get up and read a good book. The latter is better (I felt the need to answer that question just in case there were doubts). The news is always lies. What happened to radiation in San Francisco because of Fukishama? What happened to Avian Flu? Where is Greece already? Nothing in the news comes true. No news! Which means, no cat pictures!

No random surfing. No responding to hatemail. No returning emails you don’t have to. No junk food. Junk food prevents you from sleeping because it’s hard to digest.

No alcohol. Alcohol has sugar. Right when you need to rest it spikes up and you’re completely awake even when you don’t want to be.

And finally, no screen time after 6pm. It doesn’t matter what you have to do. You will get more done in the long run if you turn off the computer after 6pm.

B) Do something EXTRA for each client. This might seem counter-intuitive. You have a hard enough time getting things done – this is why you asked the question in the first place. How will doing something extra help.

Every client is asking you to accomplish a list of tasks. Always keep in mind, “What extra task can I do for this client that they did not ask for?” This will result in several benefits:

- You will get through the main tasks so you can get to the extra task

- It”s pleasant to surprise people. It’s like a classic Steve Jobs talk. He gives an entire talk, showing all of the amazing new Apple products and everyone cheers and then finally he says, “oh I forgot to tell you, we also MADE A TIME MACHINE!” And the crowd goes crazy. We came to expect that in Steve Jobs talks, which is why they became so famous, such a source of pleasure to watch.

- Give and you will receive. Clients remain loyal when they know you are standing out on the ledge for them. They will also cut you slack when you need it so you dont’ have to feel overwhelmed all the time. They will become your partners instead of your clients.

- While you are doing the extra task for the client, you won’t be doing the mindless stuff, like surfing the web, looking at “cat pictures” (I put in quotes because we all know what that really means. Err, at least for me). Doing extra for a client will cut down on your “random” time, which will ultimately result in more rest time.

- By the time you are done with the extra task it’s time to rest.

C) Take a 20 minute walk. Try to do this every 90 minutes. I’m going to tell you a secret. The mind isn’t creative. Your emotions are not creative.

When was the last time you were panicking or afraid or anxious and suddenly you came up with the greatest idea you’ve ever come up with? I’ll answer for you: NEVER. When our mind is filled with thoughts, it crowds out the inner silence that is the source of ALL creativity.

We have a mind in order to get food. Our competitors for food were all bigger and stronger than us so we needed to come up with a brain that could outwit them. But your true source of creativity comes when the mind slows down and you connect to the deeper parts of you.

This happens when you take a walk. You get some exercise. Your eyes enjoy new input. You get away from the screen. And guess what, your subconscious, or superconscious, or whatever you want to call it, gets a chance to be creative.

D) At the end of the work day: return all emails. Set aside that time to return all non-immediate emails.

E) Finally, at the very end of the work day, list everything you did that day. This isn’t a “To Do” list. This is a “I Did” list. You will be surprised how much you got done.

So, to summarize, here is the “get more rest” cheat sheet:

- no screen time after 6pm

- take walks

- you know perfectly well what is “bad screen time” versus “good screen time” so be strict about that.

- do an extra task each day for each client

- make an appointment with yourself each day to return emails. This way you won’t feel anxious about them during the day. Don’t do anything during that time other than return emails.

- No junk food. No alcohol. No coffee after 9am (coffee stays in the system for 12 hours). No online games. If you want to do social facebook time, set a limit of 5-10 minutes a day on it.

- If you really wanted to rest: don’t eat dinner. Breakfast and lunch is enough. It’s not like you are going to die of starvation. The 90 minutes of dinner can be rest time.

- No TV past 8pm. For shows you love you can always download to the ipod later and watch them on your commute. Go to sleep instead. What happens after 8pm is you forget that you used to only watch the shows you love and you start watching, “Keeping up With the Kardashians” (if you happen to love that show, please stop).

- Wake up an hour early for exercise and/or reading. Since you just went to sleep early, you should be able to do that. Even 2 minutes of exercise is good.

Try this: Doing the above list, try to work only four hours a day instead of eight. You will be surprised how easy it is. You will be surprised how guilt you will feel (because of screen withdrawal symptoms).

It’s hard to do this list. We’re all addicts to the screen. If we all did the above, here’s what will happen: we will get more work done, we will be more creative, we will get more rest, our children would see us more, we’ll have more sex, we’ll get more exercise, we’ll sleep deeper, we’ll live longer, we’ll look better.

Sounds pretty good.